One of the things I like about writing this blog is that I often get requests via Facebook and Instagram to prove that books about certain people exist and have an audience. To be honest, I enjoy the challenge. Fantasy novels about young Black boys? Have some Okorafor, Reynolds and Mbalia. Summer beach reads about plus-size women in love? Well lookie here! Romance novels where the main couple consist of an East Asian man and a Black woman?
HA! I bet you thought I was going to write a diatribe about how hard it is to find Asian men and Black women in love on the page, but the truth is–it’s not that hard. (It took me longer to find an appropriate stock photo for this blog than it did to think of titles for this list.) Quiet as it’s kept, it’s also not all that much of a novelty in reality anymore, either. I’m not going to pretend we are overrun with Asian man/Black woman love stories in the wild, I’m just saying that art imitates life, and there are plenty of real life examples being worked into fictional narratives. I think we’re all so trained to think in a Black/white binary that we ignore the fact that reality contains plenty of interracial couples in which neither person is white. (The very first date I ever went on was with a Japanese-American guy. He bought me ice cream and we saw, of all things, the movie Rush Hour. It was awkward, but everything is when you’re seventeen, as Janis Ian famously sang. Our film choice didn’t help.)
My point is, while Asian men and Black women historically don’t get a lot of love in Western media and there are way too many articles about how those are the two groups of people in the US most likely to draw stereotyping and ire when it comes to desirability–we’re still out here being loved and desired. Sometimes, we’re out here loving each other, believe it or not. As with all other facets of the human experience, somebody wrote books about it, and here they are. Four out of the five are romances, and one is an honorary mention for reasons I’ll explain later.
I want to take a moment and make it clear that even though as a Black lady living in Asia I hear and see a lot of creepy race-baiting and fetishizing nonsense in the real world, that’s not what this is. Someone dared me to find books on a theme that they though was absurd and uncommon, and I took them up on it . I’ve intentionally avoided books with marketing tags like AMBW and bland stereotypes in their descriptions. In short–the books in this list are good. This blog is not an invitation to make comments on racialized physical attributes, stereotype, use slurs, send me BTS fan art(unless it’s really, really good) or otherwise be a pain in the ass. Don’t do it. I’ll cry, and then I’ll block you. If you’re thinking about it, try Jesus and then go read one of these books instead.
So, on to the list. As always, I’m not an expert in literature, love, East Asian men, or even Black women. I’m just a lady who likes books, splashing my very general opinions out there along with a couple billion other folks. This list is by no means exhaustive, but I do personally recommend all of these books. Let’s start with…
This story about a Black American woman and a Korean American man(who is implied to actually be mixed Eurasian but it’s never really made clear) is probably the steamiest entry on the list so of course it comes first.(rimshot) Our hero and heroine have great careers, great families, great bodies and fantastic chemistry. It’s textbook wish fulfillment fantasy, which is what I love about romance novels. What I didn’t love was the handling of race in the story–while it was quite realistic, the story leans very heavily on misogynoiristic and/or anti-Asian characters and misunderstandings in the third act and becomes a bit depressing given its fluffy beginnings. That said, it gets points for having the conflicts between the couple be much more about their individual personalities and communication styles than the external pressures of racism. The book has a very happy ending, but be aware it goes to some unusually dark places for a romance novel. If you want to see a 3 chapter preview made available on the author’s site, click HERE.
“Maybe part of falling in love with someone else is also falling in love with yourself.”
Full disclosure: I haven’t actually finished reading this. I picked it up as a light YA romance/palate cleanser in between heavier reads and wasn’t expecting it to be quite so…evocative. It’s the story of a Jamaican girl and a Korean boy in New York City who have a star-crossed meet-cute and whirlwind romance. But it’s also so much more. There’s a lot here about fate and love and the tricky business of being human. The third or fourth time this book whopped me upside the head with something unexpectedly deep I put it down to save for later when my heart could take it. That said–this is another book that gets kudos for rightfully treating race as an external, socially constructed factor that never negates the inner lives of its characters or their love story, even while the plot demonstrates at times how warped and unjust other’s perceptions can be. It’s much more thoughtful than the marketing gives it credit for and I’ll definitely get back to it when I have a spare hour to cry over imaginary people. Find it HERE.
I’ve mentioned several times how much I appreciate it when interracial romance novels focus on couples whose main relationship conflict is not about race. Unfortunately, that is not the case for Trinity and Li Wei in this book–in a way, their conflicts are all about race. But it’s not because he’s Chinese–it’s because he’s a Chinese robot. (Or biosynthetic human, actually, but po-tay-to, po-tah-to.) This is a weird one–a feather light story with equally light characters but really heavy, well-organized sci-fi worldbuilding that I honestly wanted to see more of than the couple. It’s a fluffy beach read but a very fun and unique one. Find it HERE.
This YA romance featuring a Black American college student and her Japanese-American beau has a few distinguishing features. First of all, the main character is asexual. I did not know asexual romance novels were a thing but Alice, the pretty lady pictured on the cover, is a biromantic asexual and trying to figure out life and relationships with new beau Takumi. The second unique thing is that this is the only novel in this list where race doesn’t come up at all, really. (Culture does, but culture isn’t race, of course.) Alice and Takumi live in a very multicultural neighborhood in California and have a very diverse circle of friends and family so while race is a reality–they never really talk about it. They talk about their respective cultures loads though, as well as what it means to be ace in a relationship with an allosexual, or even in a relationship, period. I like the normalcy of this approach a lot. I’ve been in my share of interracial relationships and let me tell you, race gets talked about but not nearly as much as oh my days did you just do something annoying AGAIN? WHY? What even is this relationship right now???? This book gives you plenty of that and very little OMG you’re a different race can you eat normal food and impress my mom? Find it HERE.
This is emphatically not a romance novel, and it has the odd distinction of being the only novel by Octavia Butler (whom I love much more than James Baldwin and only slightly less than Maya Angelou) that I don’t really like. I consider myself a connoisseur of the far out but this one manages to be too freaky for even me. Lilith Oyapo spends most of the book assimilating into the world of aliens who have literally abducted her for breeding purposes. However, she does have a brief, plot-critical romance with another abductee, a Hong Kong born Canadian named Joseph. I include this book here because there is a lot going on in Dawn and the two following books. The world has ended and Lilith and Joseph are a sort of de facto Adam and Eve. Other writers published in the late 80s would probably have tried to make their relationship another oddity among oddities, but Butler makes the couple a point of familiarity. Their relationship is easily the most normal thing in the first book and forms an important touchstone for readers to base their understanding of the world Butler created for the Xenogenesis trilogy. Their race is an issue, but the fact that it is only throws the ridiculousness of racism and xenophobia into harsh lighting, exposing the regressivity and anti-humanity of prejudiced, supremacist thinking in a way that only Octavia Butler could manage. Find it HERE.
(Beautiful people! Thanks for reading! There are affiliate links galore in this post, so I need to tell you that this blog has relationships with sites like Bookshop and if you click and purchase anything from a link you find here, a commission may be paid. If you want to see all of the books in this blog in one place plus more in the same theme, click HERE. Peace!)